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The Military Coalition’s positions sent to Hill committees

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Longtime readers know that AUSA is partnered with The Military Coalition – a group of 34 military-related associations that meet monthly to craft joint legislative strategy pertaining to issues that are important to their constituencies.

Participation in the coalition is a force multiplier – there are more than 60 government affairs professionals and a combined membership of over 5 million. Numbers like that resonate on Capitol Hill.

One of the ways that the coalition advocates before Congress is through testimony at congressional hearings.

This year the coalition has provided detailed information on its positions to both the House and Senate Armed Services Committees’ Personnel Subcommittees. Separately they will address the health-care issues that are under sustained attack.

The coalition personnel testimony addresses the need for a drawdown that sustains force levels consistent with the mission.

It opposes a BRAC-like legislative process for the proposed military retirement reform initiative. Congress must be able to deliberate and bring its expertise to bear on any changes in the retirement system.

The coalition also urges a continuation of fully comparable military pay raises based on the Employment Cost Index annual increases while also urging Congress to ensure that any restructure of the DoD and VA disability and compensation systems does not inadvertently reduce compensation levels for disabled service members.

To support military families, the coalition warns Congress to resist any initiatives to civilianize or consolidate DoD retail systems in ways that would reduce their value to patrons.

It also urges maintenance of impact aid funding for schools, funding for family readiness councils, yellow ribbon programs, child care programs, spouse education programs as well as the implementation of flexible spending accounts to enable military families to pay health care and child care expenses with pre-tax dollars.

Reserve component (RC) issues that the coalition addresses include: authorizing early retirement credit for all RC members who have served active duty tours of at least 90 days retroactive to Sept 11, 2001, additional improvements to the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program, and revising the RC compensation system to attract to and retain individuals in the RC.

The coalition also urges Congress to enact academic protections for mobilized RC students, including refund guarantees and exemption of federal student loan payments during activation and to increase specialized family support and training for programs that help geographically separated RC families.

The coalition urges Congress to maintain its commitment to maintain cost of living increases for military retirees, disabled retirees, and survivors so that real purchasing power is not lost.

A key coalition goal continues to be to achieve full concurrent receipt for military retirees who have service-caused disability. VA disability compensation should be added not subtracted from service-earned military retired pay.

Another long time goal for the coalition is the elimination of the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) – Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) offset as well as authorization by Congress of survivors to retain the final month’s retired pay for the month in which the military retiree dies.

The issues that are highlighted in the coalition testimony echo those of AUSA and have the AUSA signature block at the conclusion of them.

Additionally, this month, AUSA President Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, USA, Ret., has prepared a letter to senior congressional leaders that addressed the specter of sequestration that would diminish the funds available to the Department of Defense over the next 10 years by an additional $500 billion – in addition to the $487 billion that is already being struck from the ledgers.

AUSA has prepared a letter to Congress urging the members to urgently focus on preparing legislation that will undo the sequestration scheduled to occur in January 2013 as it pertains to the defense budget.

Add your voice to ours and send a letter of your own using our website. Go to www.ausa.org, click on "Legislative Action Center" at the bottom of the page.

Put your zip code in the box titled "Elected Officials," and then click on the prepared letter "Stop Sequestration Now."

Together we can fight to keep the target of budget cuts off the backs of soldiers and their families.

The rest of this legislative year promises a bumpy ride for defense issues, but AUSA will be on point trying to smooth the road.